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Techniques General Persuasion > Sequential Requests > Low-ball

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



First make what you want the other person to agree to easy to accept by making it quick, cheap, easy, etc.

Maximize their buy-in, in particular by getting both verbal and public commitment to this.

Make it clear that they are agreeing to this of their own free will.

Then change the agreement to what you really want. The other person may complain, but, if the low-ball is done correctly they should agree to the change.

The trick of a successful low-ball is in the balance of making the initial request attractive enough to gain agreement, whilst not making the second request so outrageous that the other person refuses. It nevertheless is surprising how great a difference there can be between these two requests. 


A sales person says that a product 'starts at' a low price. During the sales process they introduce necessary extras.

A family books a package holiday. They find that there are surcharges. They pay these without question.


The Low-ball works by first gaining closure and commitment to the idea or item which you want the other person to accept, then using the fact that people will behave consistently with their beliefs to sustain the commitment when you change the agreement.

There is also an illusion of irrevocability whereby a person believes that a decision made cannot be reversed, for example when a person agrees to buy a car and considers the handshake as the final transaction (as opposed to handing over the money).

Agreeing to a low price creates excitement and not buying after this state is induced may lead to an equally deep depression, which the person may avoid by continuing with the more expensive purchase.

When the final price is not that much higher than elsewhere, the person weighs up the inconvenience of going elsewhere with the short-term benefit of holding their purchase very soon.

Cialdini, Cacioppo, Bassett, and Miller (1978) asked students to participate in an experiment. The control group was told during the request that it would be at 7am. The low-ball group was only told this later. 24% of the control group agreed to this, whilst 56% of the low-ball group agreed (and 95% of these actually turned up).

Guéguen and Pascual (2000) found it to be important that the person believes that they have made a free and non-coerced agreement to the first request. In particular adding 'but you are free to accept or to refuse' to the first request increased compliance.

Burger and Petty (1981) showed that the same person must make both requests.

Low-ball is similar to Bait-and-switch. Low-ball is used in a single transaction, for example in the direct conversation between a customer and a sales person. In bait-and-switch, the bait (such as in an advert) is often separate from the direct sales activity during which the switch is made, for example by saying the advertised product is not available (but a higher-priced, similar product is). Also, low-balling is often based more in money, while bait-and-switch typically is about different products.

The Low-ball technique is a 'sequential request'.

See also

Consistency principle, Closure principle, Bait-and-switch


Cialdini, R. B., Cacioppo, J. T., Bassett, R., and Miller, J. A. (1978). Low-ball procedure for producing compliance: Commitment then cost. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 463-476.

Burger, J. M., and Petty, R. E., (1981). The low-ball compliance technique: Task or person commitment? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 492-500.

Guéguen N. and Pascual A. (2000), Evocation of freedom and compliance: The "But you are free of… " technique, Current Research in Social Psychology, 5, 264-270.

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